I haven’t written anything honest and true for a very long time. Weeks. Maybe a month. And the silence feels like a lie. So the following isn’t a feel good piece, but it’s honest and for right now, that’s all I can offer. No, it’s what I need to offer.
How are we after the great big move away from ministry? Our kids are making it and making friends. Once we limited our 3-year-olds exposure to Inside Out we haven’t heard so much of the dramatic, “I miss our old house. I miss my friends. And I miss my school.” For the first five months I didn’t mind sharing a bathroom with six other people. I love the sunrises over the river and the runs downtown.
But we are dying over here. Like there is decomposition in our home—layer upon layer of death—and it reeks. I’m so shattered that I’ve stopped trying to collect all the pieces and sort of marvel that only seven months ago people asked me for advice. Most nights, I fall asleep to my own voice saying, “I miss our old neighborhood. I miss my friends. I miss our church.”
And I wake up and pretend that none of it’s true and that everything is alright.
Nathan has started dealing with regular seizures, most likely connected to an old brain injury, and has lost the ability to drive until we can get them under control. I’ve gone to work full time and watched the work-I-love-to-do fight to stay on my calendar…scraping at a few scraps of white space so that my soul doesn’t burst with the swelling of words.
Add to that the agony of fourteen years worth of marital junk deciding to unpack itself in the midst of our deconstructed home and perhaps you can smell the first layer or two of death.
In the middle of all that death, there is then the most inappropriate emotion—joy. Because when I’m not missing my friends and not dwelling upon the family we left behind and not feeling like it’s my job to breathe life into all the dead things around me, I remember myself. I once was independent… I once was capable… I once was involved in the lives of people in the most mundane and everyday ways… I once liked to drive with the windows down and the music loud while singing just slightly off key… I once ditched the have-tos for the want-tos and didn’t feel at all irresponsible… I once was okay that I hadn’t seen the surface of my kitchen table since I bought it, and that it looked just fine as a mail holder and a laundry folder… I once was alive and free…
And when I read that through once more, there are too many pronouns ‘I.’
I once was an I but am now a we.
And we are dying.
I wish I could pack up all the death and stuff the last six months into boxes and drive my truck in reverse across country and return to living ignorant of pending death. When I believed our adventure was an adventure and not an escape. When I was unaware that I can live among so many people and still feel so alone.
But I have more to remember: Fifteen years ago I stood before a man—a pastor whose church I attended and who was later accused of embezzlement and child molestation—and I decided to take a gamble on the words he shared. I decided his words were enough to move me forward. This man who was a vessel of death and corruption was also a vessel of life. Isn’t that the mystery—how death and life can exist in the same body at the same moment? Isn’t that the question of every person with a terminal diagnosis? That they are allowed so many more days or months while knowing there will soon be a final one?
And I decided I would say ‘yes’ to this God who likes to make dead things live. A God whose creativity is unlimited by the one thing that limits humanity. A God who gave us perennials as evidence of his ability. That yes was the first moment of forever, a trajectory of life for my soul while my body continued toward finality.
It’s a spiritual juxtaposition.
Life is so much more striking when viewed alongside death.
And maybe that’s what’s happening here. That the vitality I feel in the remembering of me is only so striking alongside the death of we. That in reality, it’s just another mundane day of driving and singing. It’s just another walk beneath the outstretched arm of summer as it tries to hold on. It’s just another white square upon the year 2016.
Maybe the struggle is that I’m the one trying to resuscitate the dying, when fifteen years ago, I confessed my inability to accomplish such a thing.
So I exhale. Breathe. Let my chest fall slowly. And for the first time I know mercy. For the next breath I take is undeserved—a gift of greatest proportions. And the only thing to do with a gift is to give. Will the gift be enough for we?
I’m counting on that gamble, that it’s backed by a promise.